Designing a Mobile Makerspace for Children’s Hospital Patients: Enhancing Patients’ Agency and Identity in Learning
This study focuses on the learning of preteen children who must repeatedly spend periods of several days or weeks in a hospital setting because they require treatment for Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease. Hospitalized preteenagers struggle with a number of issues that may impact their learning, including interruption of everyday routines and activities, including school; a diminished sense of agency over one’s immediate and long-term goals; isolation from peers; and anxieties about the future. To address these challenges I presented eight pre-teen patients with a mobile Makerspace and supported their personal efforts in devising and implementing design and invention projects with a range of digital devices. Patients recruited and negotiated a wide range of resources (including conceptual, material, and social) for purposes of pursuing their personal goals with the Makerspace. This view of learning emphasizes the role of children’s personal agency in orchestrating their own learning and identity formation as a critical long-term consequence. Across eight case studies, patients working with the Makerspace adopted a varied set of positions with respect to design and making. I call these Maker Mentalities, because they seem to be predominant orientations toward design. These mentalities were characterized by different motives and processes, such as whether patients valued the inclusion of other people in the design process and whether their engineering approaches were predominantly systematic or tended to capitalize on fortuitous, trial-and-error discoveries. I also describe the categories and duration of patient projects, their formats they devised for documenting their work for others, and the Makerspace’s influences on patient mobility and health.